By Sarah Moshman and Steve Guglielmo
Sarah Moshman is an Emmy-award winning filmmaker who will be presenting at the Women in Industry Conference in Chicago on November 8, 2018. Sarah’s presentation, entitled “Be Bold,” will explore how we are all extraordinary and encourage attendees to leave their comfort zones in pursuit of a better version of themselves. Sarah was nice enough to sit down with The MHEDA Journal to discuss her presentation.
The MHEDA Journal: What are some of the things you’ll be discussing in your presentation?
Sarah Moshman: I’m a documentary filmmaker, which means that my job is to tell stories and often to put myself in pretty cool and unexpected places and meet really interesting people. And so my talk is really about the work that I have been doing and why I do it. What motivates me and how we can all take inspiration and empowerment from the incredible women and men that I have been fortunate enough to meet in my travels through making my films.
TMJ: Your presentation is entitled “Be Bold.” Your website discussed women “being bold enough to leave our comfort zones and having the courage to tell our stories.” For this industry, which is still predominantly male, what are some ways that women can leave their comfort zones and how could you see that having a positive impact on their careers?
SM: There are so many moments in our lives that we can gain a little bit more courage and leave our comfort zone. That can look like a million different things depending on the person. It could be this big, bold move, like, “I’m going to row across the Pacific Ocean,” which is what one of my films is about. Or it could be, “I’m going to speak up more in that team meeting we have every week.” “I’m going to have my voice heard more in the company and give my ideas, even though I might be scared that they’re not the right ideas, and I might feel vulnerable or like a failure if my ideas don’t get chosen in the next quarterly report.” I think it’s just an assessment for each of us to make in our careers. It’s not just a onetime thing, where you break your comfort zone and you’re like “Ok, I checked that box.” It’s constantly checking in with yourself about where you are in your career and where you want to be and where you want to go and how to get there. And chances are, it’s going to involve something that’s a little bit uncomfortable to get past. Leaving your comfort zone is really uncomfortable to do for anybody at any stage of their career. But it’s really inspiring to think about how much stronger you’ll be on the other side of that. Maybe you’ll learn something about yourself that you didn’t know already by stretching your wings a little bit and seeing how much you can accomplish. I think it’s something that can be applied to a plethora of things in our lives and specifically in our careers. It’s really exciting to think about where we might be in a year or 5 years if we really adapt that mindset now.
TMJ: Both of your documentaries deal with pretty incredible, courageous women. Did these women have a common characteristic or trait between all of them?
SM: Yeah, I would say that seeing a mistake or an obstacle or a struggle more as an opportunity rather than an ending or a roadblock, I would say would be a common theme. With, “The Empowerment Project” I didn’t think that I would have anything in common with an astronaut or a 4-star Admiral. On paper I’m thinking, “What am I going to talk to this woman about? She’s incredible.” I put them all on these pedestals and felt like we wouldn’t have anything in common. And it was quite the opposite. I felt like we had everything in common in the sense that the struggles that she had faced along her journey in her workplace were very similar to mine and to all of the other women on our film crew and the women in the audience as well. The self doubt that one might experience, the obstacles you might face, all of the opportunities to stop and turnaround and give up. I think that’s universal. To men and women. Not just women, but my subjects happened to be mostly women. I found that that was really inspiring to think about, that we share so much. We’re more similar than we are different. The reason I wanted to tell the story of the women who crossed the ocean in the first place is that they weren’t professional athletes. They weren’t even professional rowers. They wanted to do something much bigger than themselves and prove what we are all capable of when we push ourselves to the limit. And it was really about the power of the human spirit and I thought, “Well that’s such a beautiful, universal story to tell.” So that’s what appealed to me about their journey. And that’s very in line with all of the other stories I was already telling. I think we have a lot more in common than we think with people we admire or just with anyone who sticks their neck out and says, “I’m going to try this. I don’t know how it’s going to go but I’m sure I’ll be better for it on the other side even if I don’t succeed.”
TMJ: Women face other challenges in the office that men sometimes don’t. What would you say to a woman who might be nervous to speak up not just because she’s an introvert, but because she’s worried about being labeled as “bossy” or any other coded word?
SM: I would say, find allies in the office. That’s a good place to start. It doesn’t have to be your best friend that you work with but somebody you can confide in and trust. If they’re also there in the meeting, then you’ll have a familiar face that you can feel comfortable speaking up around. And that absolutely goes for men as well. We need each other in the work place to feel less alone. Chances are, what you’re going through, somebody else is also going through a similar thing, or may in the future, or have in the past. I think it can be toxic if we end up thinking we’re alone in our experiences or that nobody has ever gone through it. There should be some sort of protocol in place for whatever it is that you’re struggling with or somebody who can say, “I used to be nervous in meetings too, but then I spoke up once and it went fine and I’ve been doing it ever since.” Somebody who has paved the path for you. Just finding those allies at work is a good idea anyway. Having mentors or having people in a higher supervisory position that can tell you how they got to where they are. Maybe it will be inspiring for you to move up the ladder. We need to help one another to rise up in the work place. We’re in it together. We’re not in a vacuum. The more we can work alongside each other, rather than against each other, the better off we’ll be.
TMJ: What are you hoping attendees of the Women in Industry Conference can walk away with? Any key takeaways?
SM: My goal is always, a general sense of empowerment to anybody that is listening to these stories. It’s not just my story. It’s really the stories of the incredible women I’ve been fortunate enough to interview. I want everyone to feel empowered. That they can do, and be, and achieve anything. It’s funny, oftentimes when people watch my film, “Losing Sight of Shore,” or they hear about the women who rowed the ocean, they think, “I’m so lazy! I don’t do anything with my life, and look at them.” That sort of makes me sad because I want it to be the opposite. I want them to think, “If they can do that, I can do XYZ.” That’s the tagline of the film, “Everyone has a Pacific to cross.” And I love that because it’s a reminder that we all have struggles. We all have to sort of wade out there into the middle of the ocean sometimes and lose sight of shore. You can find that courage and inner strength to keep going and find the other side. That could be work related. It could be personal. It could be running a marathon, raising a child. It could be anything. I want the audience to feel empowered to take on whatever challenges they have in their life and to be inspired about what women are capable of, which is absolutely anything. We all have an extraordinary side to us, that we just need to unleash.
TMJ: Is there anything else you want to share with readers ahead of your presentation?
SM: The presentation is going to be multi-media, so I’m going to be talking but also showing trailers and clips from my films as well. It will be an interactive experience.